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12 steps to better copy

I don’t ever profess to being a copywriter, but I do occasionally help clients put together their catalogue copy. Generally, I ‘tweek’ what they have written, to make it more focused and punchy.

This little guide came together as result of clients asking me how to start writing better copy. It is far from a definitive guide, but at least you have enough pointers to structure your message.

1. Know your readers
Be sure of your audience and be very specific in who you are writing to. Look at other types of copy and publications they are reading. Get to know their language, be an insider. What do they care about? What motivates them? What turns them off? Remember to aim at those most likely to buy.
Build authority – generate trust.

2. Study the product info before writing
If possible, get the product in front of you and get to really understand it. If you start writing before you know all the specs and features, you’ll end up with copy that’s scattered. Start with the supplier copy and pull out all the important bits.
Be enthusiastic and this will enthuse your reader.

3. Look at competitor’s copy
Find out what your competitors are saying about this or a similar product. Be very critical of other copy, you may get some good ideas but don’t fall into the trap of assuming it is good copy. You need to be better than your competitors and remember no one has a monopoly on good ideas!

4. Keep it flowing and logical
There are very few rules in copywriting. Keep it moving and write as if you are talking to someone. You can always edit your copy down to fit – so get on roll! Be careful with too much detail or technical terms, these can bore some readers and they can always be put in a separate table. Break the rules and forget what your English teacher said. We are selling product!

5. Stress benefits, not features
Your audience is only interested in one thing ‘what’s in it for me’ or ‘what will it do for me’
Pull out a key benefit and build your copy around this. Be certain what the difference is between a feature and a benefit.

6. Visualise the person you are trying to communicate with
Imagine you are talking on a one-to-one basis with your customer. Create a conversation and forget classical grammar. Reading copy out aloud can help with the flow. Be friendly and engage them.

7 Don’t overuse favourite words or phrases
Be self critical. Use an online thesaurus. Get someone else to read your copy.

8. State the obvious, stress the positive and remove all barriers
Get to the point quickly. Sell the hole and not the drill bit.

9. Make sure the copy matches the illustration
Although this seems obvious – the copy is there to support the image. It needs to reinforce what is shown in the photograph or illustration.

10. Avoid long sentences and use short words
No more than 12 words per sentence. Bite sized info is absorbed quickly. Long words don’t impress.

11. New and Exclusive
Two of the most powerful words in catalogue copy. Use where appropriate or invent ways to use them.

12. Never be afraid to close the sale
Your copy is there to sell product. If you have removed all barriers, then the sale should be a nobrainer! Ask the question; why not order now?

Want to know more, then please contact Ian direct at C4B – Click here.